Suitcase and World: Tikal.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Deep in the heart of the lush Guatemalan jungle, lies the ruins of one of the greatest cities of Mayan civilization, Tikal.

Lore has it that Tikal was discovered in 1848 by Ambrosio Tut and Modesto Mendez, who were respectively, the Commissioner and the Governor of the Petén department which is the *province* that Tikal is located in. On a return visit to the site, they brought along an artist who recorded some of the carvings at Tikal. Their findings were published by the Berlin Academy of Sciences in 1853. It was only a matter of a few years before curious scholars started traveling from the corners of the world to see for themselves what they had discovered. Flash forward to the 20th century. From 1956 through 1970, major archaeological excavations were carried out by the University of Pennsylvania Tikal Project. They mapped much of the site and excavated and restored many of the structures. The Tikal Project recorded over 200 monuments at the site. In 1979, the Guatemalan government began a further archeological project at Tikal, which continued through to 1984.  The site was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.

A visit to Tikal is a "must do" on our itinerary and I am determined to organize a side trip to visit it. I'm sure none of the other three have been to see any Mayan ruins so I hope this visit will be both educational and memorable.

The ancient city of Tikal is a very large complex of stone buildings - occupying about 22 square miles much of which has not yet been cleared, mapped, or excavated. From what I've read, most people focus their visit on the ancient city centre which includes the remains of temples that tower over 70 metres (230 ft) high, large royal palaces, in addition to a number of smaller pyramids, palaces, residences, administrative buildings, platforms and inscribed stone monuments. There are also seven courts for playing ball. Apparently, remains of dwellings are scattered throughout the surrounding countryside and archeologists are still working to uncover parts of it.  The ceremonial centre is located in the middle of the huge complex.....I hope they drive us part way there or else it's going to be a VERY LONG walk :-(

Here's a more detailed map of the ceremonial center.